On the Map: Furious French Feminists Say Debt Campaign is Tr

In a new campaign advertising a €35 billion loan the French government is taking out, the nationalistically symbolic Marianne is depicted as barefoot and pregnant. Who thought that was a good idea?

The answer is the Director of Government Information, Thierry Saussez, who orchestrates campaigns of government reforms and was in charge of this public relations effort. The 975,000€ campaign lasted two weeks and ran in single and double page ads in national and regional newspapers, as well as weekly news magazines. With the slogan “France is investing in its future,” the ad was intended to promote sustainable investment, education, the digital economy, research, and economic development. Instead, this neuvo-Marianne has got quite a few French feminists in a twist.

In contrast with traditional representations of the “Triumph of the Republic,” which show Marianne baring her breasts as she leads soldiers in the for liberty on a battlefield, this version propagates a retrograde, natalist vision of women. Gone is Marianne the warrior, the spearhead of freedom. What is left is a passive and virginal mother-to-be carrying the future of France not in her hands, but in her belly.

In defense, Saussez says, “As these are investments for the future, we had quite naturally the idea of taking this beautiful symbol of motherhood…a very nice positive symbol.”

When inequalities of wages and domestic labor abound, prominent French feminist blogger Le Féminin l’Emporte responds, “The hand of the state should not be in my uterus, and certainly not to look for money.” Olympe at Le Plafond de Verre agrees, “The poster is suggesting that the job of women is to make babies while the men manage the billions from the loan.”

Others have taken to parody, altering the image to one that reflects their anger. In one, a woman who is not pregnant holding a placard that reads, “casse-toi, alors pauvre con,” the insult hurled by President Nicolas Sarkozy at a farmer who refused to shake the president’s hand in February 2008. Now in the midst of another PR bumble, when will he ever learn?


by Mandy Van Deven
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5 Comments Have Been Posted

I really hope that...

...considering the clearly computer-drawn arrow in the first picture, that the commentary on the right ("Be a mother and shut up!") is a satirical reading-between-the-lines, and not an actual part of the ad. *shudder*

I wondered about that too!

I looked it up on the original blog and was reassured to read that the text on the right was added by the blogger.

Still a lousy add, though.

thanks for the heads up!

I just changed the wording of the last paragraph to make it more apparent that both pictures shown here are altered versions of the ad. :)

Marianne is a symbol of

Marianne is a symbol of France that is a woman, not a symbol of France's women. When read as a symbol of womanhood more generally, I can't think of a context in which Marianne is NOT troubling. Look at Delacroix's famous portrayal of her for a clear commentary on the ambiguity of her meaning -- sure, she represents liberty, freedom, reason, and justice, but we are to ask, at what cost? The nearest figures to the viewer aside from Marianne are gruesome dead bodies and a kid with a pistol, potent symbols of the revolution that often went unseen in favor of the bare-breasted warrior woman.

Also, barefoot and pregnant? That's a little disingenuous, as Marianne is *always* barefoot. She's also not only shown as a warrior, she's frequently shown with more domestic symbols of prosperity, such as wheat or branches (laurels?), or, if I recall, sometimes with scales to represent justice/reason. And, according to the Wikipedia, one of the first depictions of Marianne was in the context of motherhood: she was portrayed by the artist Honoré Daumier nursing Romulus and Remus.

If reading Marianne as a symbol of the republic, well, I don't really see a big problem with this particular image. Now, as for having a problem with using a woman's body as a symbol of a state or political regime, I have to say I'm not a huge fan.

Reading Marianne as a

Reading Marianne as a symbol
she symbolises the attachment of the common citizens of the revolution to the Republic – Marianne is liberty, egality and fraternity.
Nothing is wrong with that picture except the added arrow and the sign which wasn't on the original blog.

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